Amazon has launched its Australian Kindle store in the lead-up to Christmas, with some warning it will hurt the sale of conventional books, an industry already under pressure.
Amazon has been a popular destination for Australians who shop online since 1994. The launch of its Australian store is part of the expansion of its Kindle products. New Kindle e-readers are also on sale at Australian retailers such as Big W and Dick Smith.
Joel Becker, the CEO of the Australian Booksellers Association, says he is concerned about Amazon’s competitive practices.
“It’s bad news for Australian readers and publishers in the long term,” he says. “If the worst happens and Amazon did in effect take over the marketplace, then their anticompetitive practices could lead to a monopolistic situation.”
Becker says he understands consumers will ultimately decide what they spend their money on. However, he urges buyers to “think beyond the hip pocket”. He says Amazon consistently prices its products below what other providers could even buy the product for.
“It is not healthy for one source to control all of the publishing, all of the media, all of the manufacturing. But it’s not a death knell because there are alternatives out there.”
Becker says the Australian Booksellers Association is partnering with Kobo because Kobo e-readers are “open devices” that allow you to purchase e-books from other suppliers.
“The Kindle device is proprietorial and locks you into Amazon, and that is the reason we object to it. Kobo already has a solid presence through Collins Booksellers and through Bookworld.”
Buying a Kindle makes it difficult to purchase e-books from places other than the Kindle bookstore because the device does not display e-books in the same way as the rest of the industry. Similarly, books sold from the Kindle store can be read on Kindle apps for smartphones and tablet devices but not on other e-readers.
The Australian Kindle store offers over two million e-books. Their homepage displays a variety of Australian authors, including Tim Winton and Di Morrissey. Kindle Direct Publishing – Kindle’s self-publishing service – is also available locally.
However, Becker says the threat of there being one single provider will be damaging to authors. He says staff at bookshops can arrange the store so Australian and first-time authors can be more visible to potential buyers. But this is made more difficult online.
“Online has to work with a physical shop for writers to benefit. In the long term, what’s the likelihood of an author being discovered by an online method?”
The launch of Australia’s Kindle store comes after a difficult year for the local book industry. Discount bookstore chain allbooks4less.com.au was placed into administration in July. Due to the popularity of online booksellers, the stores that have managed to survive are not recording large growth rates.
Amazon has been contacted for comment.